How to go broke, steal from your parents, improvise, and cheat your way through January 2nd
9 am: I pull up the recipes for day one when I get up in the morning after spending the night at my parents’ house. I’m feeling especially motivated to cleanse following a fondue and red wine-fueled four day New Year’s celebration with friends, not to mention the two weeks of holiday spiriting that preceded it. A glass of warm water and lemon goes slightly wrong when I overheat the water and scald my mouth, but it cools down and I can practically feel the pH in my body realkalizing, or whatever it is that lemon water purportedly does for you.
9:30 am: Breakfast looks doable: steel cut oats, some blackberries, nut milk, and hemp seeds. I scour the pantry and find no oats. Ultimately, I settle for a package of microwavable Chai flavored oatmeal, which is probably exactly the kind of food this cleanse is supposed to be weaning me off of. I dump it into a bowl and make a small effort at brushing some of the sugar off the oats before heating it up. My parents also, predictably, do not own hemp seeds. I settle for flax, and in lieu of blackberries, a little pile of mushy blueberries still left in the fridge from Christmas morning’s breakfast. I check the expiration date on the almond milk and decide it’s safer to forgo than to risk an unintended cleanse of the food poisoning variety. I consider breakfast an incomplete failure and/or a mild success.
10 am: Thinking I’ll get a jump start on lunch prep, I scan the menu. Basically a salad with greens, carrots, radishes, tofu, and a homemade dressing containing approximately 14 ingredients I don’t own and am not planning to purchase solely for the purpose of this lunch. As much as I would like to treat myself in 2014, it’s not going to be with an 85 dollar salad. Also, I have some pretty strong feelings about the taste, texture, and actual status as food of tofu and they aren’t love. I table my concerns to focus on the task at hand. Fortunately, some pantry scrounging turns up a good percentage of the ingredients at my parents’ house, so I decide to stay there for a while before heading back to Seattle to prep my salad dressing. I find soy sauce, rice vinegar, toasted sesame seeds, toasted sesame oil, vegetable oil, ginger, limes, and a jalapeno that I figure will work just fine in place of the Fresno chile they call for because I don’t know what that is. We’re only missing white miso, another unknown, so I add garlic instead and call it good. The salad also calls for a spicy crunchy nut and seed (pepita, rather) mix with cashews, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. My parents own neither of these seeds and I do not plan to buy or harvest them. I find a jar of dry roasted cashews left from a holiday gift basket, add the curry and chile powder, sub honey for agave because that’s what we’ve got, and feel good about what I’ve done this morning. Aside from the fact that it’s now 11 am on January 2nd and I am still unshowered at my parents’ house with only a few partially successful meal components in front of me. I scan the week’s shopping list and decide, while I’m there, to take some walnut oil, black rice, paprika, turmeric, cacao nibs, and slivered almonds (they unfortunately don’t have sliced almonds, which is a separate ingredient), because they have all those things and, well, I’m not buying them. Essentially, did my parents not have a well-stocked pantry, I would have spent 10% of my month’s rent on this morning’s food and just some of the seasonings for the food that is yet to come.
11:30 am: We start the drive back to Seattle, and I’m already planning how to make this work. This printed list of ingredients is two pages long (with columns!) and includes things like Aleppo pepper, tahini, pomegranate molasses, and escarole, as well as about a thousand dollars worth of other produce, seasonings, and ingredients. I ask if we can stop at Trader Joe’s, but my husband says it’s inconvenient. Can’t I just walk to the Safeway across the street? I want to argue that Trader Joe’s is more likely to have tahini, but feel this argument will not sway his sensibilities. Meanwhile, I get a detox-themed email from GOOP. Gwyneth, it seems, is also cleansing, along with her team. Oddly enough, many of her cleansing tips involve staying warm, since apparently when the body is cold it wants to consume more energy for heat, and more energy means more food, and more food means less cleanse. I consider. Gwyneth looks good, and when I think about it I don’t actually know what the editors at Bon Appétit look like. But drinking smoothies and lemon water doesn’t sound like something I’m going to adhere to for more than about 14 minutes. By now, my husband has finally agreed to go to Trader Joe’s, but only after lunch. He suggests Chipotle. I say no. He says, “But it’s been a week.” I acquiesce.
Noon: Since the proscribed cleanse lunch consisted essentially of veggies and tofu, I figure I’ll avoid straying too far if I get a salad with sofritas (that’s tofu, but one with enough Mexican spices that I can tolerate it), veggies, and salsa at Chipotle. I skip the cheese and cream, but can’t say no to the guac, even though I know my cleanse breakfast tomorrow has avocado. I’m such an avocado monger. After lunch, I feel my cleansing willpower begin to give way to cleansing excuses as I seek to justify the fast food substitute. I vow that dinner will be clean. We get home and our apartment is freezing cold. I think of Gwyneth, getting skinnier by the minute in her organic cotton and wool, sipping tea by the wood-burning fireplace in her infrared sauna. We turn on the heat. Nothing happens. We are going to be fat and freezing in 2014.
3:00 pm: Husband is eating Toblerone chocolate and I am watching, sipping tea. Puppy is glowering at us from her woefully cold bed near the not-hot heater.
4:00 pm: We went to Trader Joe’s, and they didn’t have tahini. They did have a pre-made tahini sauce, which I bought, because you know what, it just so happened that they were fresh out of watercress and mint, too, and so the green tahini sauce on tonight’s menu isn’t happening.
4:30 pm: Someone just posted an article on Facebook about how taking hot baths with bath salts is great for detox and cleansing. It makes sense, especially now that I know what I know from Gwyneth about staying warm. I draw a bath and realize that I’ve never seen this much water in our tub before. Either our bathtub is very dirty or the water is not especially sanitary. It only gets greener and has more red stuff in it as it fills up. I add extra bath salts to compensate and tell myself that whatever minerals came out of the rusty, 100-year old pipes are extra nourishment for my dry winter skin. Husband says he wouldn’t get in it, then we spend a while thinking about the fact that this is the water that we shower in. While we have a water filter for drinking, we cook our pasta in this sludge. I’m ready for a snack and, frankly, a new apartment.
4:35 pm: While I’m waiting for the bath to drain so I can just take a shower, I see that Bon Appétit has retroactively included a snack that I totally didn’t see before. Unfortunately it’s an avocado smoothie, and I think I filled my avocado quota with the $1.50 glob of guacamole on top of my earlier burrito lapse. Though, truth be told, I don’t regret the fact that I ate my avocado today rather than drank it because, well, think about it. Should one ever really DRINK an avocado?
5:00 pm: Despite a long shower during which I try, Paltrow-like, to convince my metabolism that it is a balmy summer month, I’m still hungry. We eat tomorrow’s breakfast of rye crackers and salmon with tonight’s tahini sauce as a snack. It’s delicious and I have no regrets (I say, trying to convince myself I have no regrets about having botched this cleanse so entirely less than 8 hours into it).
5:40 pm: I’m trying to make a dinner plan to balance us back out and use the groceries and components I have managed to compile during this day so intensely devoted to cleansing and shopping for cleansing. I have the salad dressing I made this morning, I have my seedless spiced pumpkin seeds, I have spinach and carrots, and while I do not have the requisite radishes for the lunchtime salad I do have some edamame, cucumber, and pomegranate seeds I picked up because they were on the list for later in the week. That’s good enough for me, especially after our snack, but my husband, and I quote, “can’t eat a meal without meat,” and so I’m thinking of also making tomorrow night’s chicken with walnut and red pepper spread. I’m not a math whiz, but I’m pretty sure this means we will have eaten two days worth of meals in one day of cleansing. Also, the roasted vegetables and walnut quinoa that were supposed to accompany the tahini sauce later that we already ate earlier—should those be incorporated, too? That could be a lot of walnuts. I could put a beet in the salad. I could eat quinoa for breakfast instead of steel cut oats. This is hard. I should have followed the plan. I wonder what Gwyneth is doing.
7:00 pm: Should probably be roasting some vegetables or looking at how you make that walnut and red pepper sauce, but I’d rather watch The Good Wife, so there you have it. Totally intended to go to yoga today, but spent a little too much time worrying about condiments—I will not let sauces and dressings detract from my day any longer, and I like, really need to know what happens with Alicia and Will.
7:30 pm: I should have looked at this Red Pepper and Walnut sauce sooner, or just bought roasted peppers in a jar. Maybe we’re just having some plain-ass chicken on our random-ass salad with the almost-right dressing I made from things I took from my parents. The cleanse allows for one to four drinks per week—would it be bad form if I blew my quota on day one?
8:30 pm: Ultimately, we ate salad. Spinach, the red pepper initially intended for the chicken sauce, grated carrot, a beet, edamame, this morning’s sesame dressing, and the crispy seedless seed mix. I cooked a chicken breast to serve with it, seasoned with the turmeric I brought home from my parents’ for some future dish, the suggested thyme, and a little cumin. Honestly? It was delicious. That salad dressing is great. I think this is probably going to be my last day of actually attempting to adhere to the cleanse, however, though I’ll probably reference it periodically for ideas, starting points, and inspiration. Also life lessons! I learned so much today. We found out the puppy likes cucumber but isn’t especially fond of spinach, though she’ll eat it anyway. We found out that while variety may be the spice of life, it is also really expensive, and I prefer recipes that call for a smaller number of components and fewer complex condiments. We also found out that, despite the best intentions, I’m just not that great at following instructions, and you know what? That’s okay.